BLOOMINGTON -- Once again, Michael Penix Jr. started at quarterback for Indiana. And once again, Peyton Ramsey finished.
Behind Penix, Ramsey and three touchdowns from sophomore running back Stevie Scott, the bowl-bound Hoosiers rolled to their fourth straight win, beating Northwestern 34-3 in the first November night game at Memorial Stadium.
IU (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) will take a bye week before its next matchup Nov. 16 at No. 5 Penn State, which will serve as another measuring stick as to how far the team has progressed in a breakthrough third season under coach Tom Allen.
Representatives from the Citrus Bowl were on hand in the press box as IU continued to make its case for a New Year’s Day bowl trip.
“Nobody came here just to get six wins, just to get seven wins,” IU senior receiver Nick Westbrook said. “We came here to get as many wins as we can. So we’re going to go into this bye week, get our bodies right and head into Penn State with that same mentality.”
With the win, Indiana clinched its first winning season since 2007.
“This is a very hungry football team right now,” Allen said. “We are not satisfied with where we’re at. They are not shocked by what they’ve done. They expected it.”
Penix completed 10 of 15 passes for 162 yards and staked the Hoosiers to a 24-3 lead before being replaced by Ramsey late in the second quarter. Ramsey finished off the game, throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Scott in the third quarter to extend IU’s lead to 31-3 and put the game out of reach.
Ramsey finished the game 7-of-10 for 108 yards.
Allen said following the game Penix was “dinged up” at the end of the second quarter and will be re-evaluated Sunday.
Scott rushed for 116 yards, his third 100-yard effort in the last four games, and had two rushing TDs in the first half. The Hoosiers forced three Northwestern turnovers in the first half, converting two of them into 14 points.
IU wore helmets with the No. 44 to honor the late George Taliaferro, a three-time All-American for the Hoosiers from 1945-48 and the first African American player drafted by the NFL in 1948 by the Chicago Bears.
A statue of Taliaferro, who died on Oct. 8, 2018 at 91, was unveiled Friday in the North Plaza of Memorial Stadium.
Penix returned to start at quarterback after sitting out IU’s last game against Nebraska with an undisclosed injury.
After two false starts to start the game, IU’s offense found its groove. Penix completed his first four pass attempts, leading the Hoosiers 67 yards in a drive that ended with a Logan Justus 27-yard field goal, putting IU up 3-0.
On Northwestern’s first offensive play, Smith scambled 22 yards but was stripped by freshman cornerback Tiawan Mullen before falling to the ground. Defensive end Michael Ziemba recovered at IU’s 47-yard line.
The Hoosiers cashed in on the turnover, driving 47 yards on seven plays. Penix connected with Westbrook on a 17-yard pass down to Northwestern’s 9-yard line. Then, after IU moved the ball down to the 2 on a Northwestern pass interference call, Scott plunged in from 2 yards out, putting the Hoosiers up 10-0.
Northwestern cut Indiana’s lead to 10-3 on a Charlie Kuhbander 25-yard field goal. But IU was able to cash in another turnover when Mullen recovered a fumble forced by IU linebacker Cam Jones at Northwestern’s 18-yard line. Northwestern was whistled for another pass interference in the end zone, and Penix scored on a 1-yard run to put the Hoosiers up 17-3.
Penix then led the Hoosiers on an 85-yard touchdown drive, connecting with Philyor on back-to-back throws of 42 and 37 yards down to Nothwestern’s 6-yard line. Scott capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to extend IU’s lead to 24-3. Scott’s second TD of the game was his 19th career TD, putting him ninth on IU’s all-time rushing touchdown list.
Westbrook said it was important for IU to cash in the turnovers in the first half.
“That was something we felt we needed to pick up from last week against Nebraska, and the week before against Maryland, just putting the foot on the pedal when those opportunities come,” Westbrook said.
Northwestern (1-7, 0-6) played without leading rusher Isaiah Bowser and leading receiver J.J. Johnson, who both sat out the game with injuries.